Thinking about economy. Economy (thrift) as well as “the economy”, this intangible entity that has taken over the collective psyche. Eikos, the Greek root, means home. Economy is the affairs of the home, the household. Our national house is in a bad way, and the cob-job deal pushed through by these transparent Republican mouthpieces for their corporate overlords is not good. I’m glad my food stamps won’t run out tomorrow, and glad my grandmother and hundreds of thousands of other people’s grandmothers won’t stop getting their social security checks, but otherwise the damned Tea Party got exactly what it asked for. (Note: Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, all the founders whom the tea party is constantly claiming as their own, all objected to a two-party system. I forget which one of venerable fathers called it “the death of democracy,” possibly Jefferson).
Back to economy. I’ve been a thrifty person for a long time, years of thrift in fact, and it’s more than a point of pride. It’s my modus operandi. Though it is occasionally necessary to drop twenty or thirty joyless dollars for a new coffeepot or decent pair of shoes, going into a box store and buying a box of something with a plastic rectangle brings me no joy, much less satisfaction. Selling some junk on eBay and then bidding on a coffeepot or decent pair of shoes is slightly better, but the best of all are the garage sales and the dumpsters. Just as there are too many people in the world, there are also too many things, and these things get put on curbs or sold cheaply in garages and yards across America. More often than not, if I ask the universe for something small and reasonable and necessary to my little life, I wait a while and it appears. Here’s a minor list of things I have found/been given by strangers or housemates/bartered for/paid less than $5 at garage sale or thrift store for (all in good, working order) in the last year or so:
a stereo in good shape with tape deck, radio, CD player & phonograph; a toaster; expensive exercise clothing, needing only a good wash cycle; a slew of planters in many sizes—ceramic, woven mat and plastic—for my gardens; various fabrics & buttons; fine old leather boots; newspapers & firewood for the fireplace (all found discarded around the apartment complex); a cat house/scratching post thing that my cats like quite a bit; a bamboo end table; a giant leafy house plant; and I guess the dandelions I picked from behind the apartment complex also count, as I made them into dandelion wine.
This is only a partial list, what I saw in one quick look around my apartment. The point is, I find what I need cheaply or free (without calling myself a freegan or a dumpster diver or even a bargain hunter) because I enjoy the hunt, and also because I’m broke. Some people make this process political, some people are ashamed of it, some people do it in groups. I don’t have a method, I just keep my eyes open when I’m walking or driving around, especially in neighborhoods that hold a lot of garage sales. It’s been harder to find good curbside hauls in Colorado than anywhere I’ve lived on the east coast; I wonder if this is because more people here subscribe to the same philosophy I do? Or maybe they just accumulate less stuff than the east coast folks I’ve known? Hard to say. This is an impartial observation, no more, no less: east coast people put more books out on the curb than Coloradans. I don’t know if they read more or less, or if Coloradans donate their books to schools and libraries, this is just the account of a continual trash-picker, transplanted a few thousand miles west.
What all this has to do with our national economy, well, probably nothing, except that I wish the spirit of thrift could be somehow better ingrained in our government. What gets cut, what’s about to be cut in the Republicans’ plan, is not thrifty, it’s short-sighted and mean (education, health care, anything that makes poor people and the middle class live better). Gutting public health & safety programs and education has always seemed extremely financially unsavvy to me, as the problems that result from such reckless redlining cost much more later on. Thrift of words in political rhetoric would be appreciated, particularly when Fox News is involved. I don’t know, maybe I have no right to question this system, as my own personal economy is in shambles. I’m unemployed and staring down almost a hundred grand in student loans. But still I find what I need and keep working on my own creative projects, keep moving forward (I hate that phrase, but nothing else fits at the moment), and keep my eikos in some kind of order. And, dammit, the college business in America is broken and destroys lives; what was I supposed to do, skip college and teach myself literature and rhetoric? It’s the only thing I’m good at! Anyway, if anyone’s reading this, senator or janitor, let it be known you can survive unemployed (without children); it just takes a shift in thinking, away from consuming and towards reusing, re-appropriating, re-making. And also, of course, food stamps. Stay away from my dinner, GOP. I’ve helped pay for yours.